Some Florida residents wind up being deeply unhappy about the terms of their divorce decree. One of the issues that causes the most unhappiness is an order directing one spouse to pay child support to the other. Even though Florida laws are clear on which spouse should pay child support and on how much should be paid, many divorced parents who have been ordered to pay child support refuse to accept the effect of the court’s order. Instead of complying with the order, they simply refuse to pay, or pay less than has been ordered or pay later than the order requires. Many parents who must pay child support to their former spouse underestimate the seriousness of ignoring the court’s order.

Parents who are ordered to pay child support should first realize that they can ask the court to change the terms of the order if they can demonstrate substantially changed circumstances. Even though meeting this burden is not easy, courts do not take a kindly view of parents who ignore such relief. Moreover, the availability of a motion to modify an order for child support makes virtually all forms of “self-help,” such as refusal to pay or paying less than the mandated amount, subject to the state’s penalties for failing to pay support.

If a parent has willfully failed to pay child support, the hearing officer who hears the case can recommend imposition of one or more of the following penalties:

  • Suspension of the parent’s driver’s license.
  • Imposition of a fine.
  • Seizure of bank accounts to bring payments current.
  • Seizure of income tax refund to bring payments current.
  • Jail or prison time for especially egregious cases.

A parent who defaults in the payment of child support generally has a limited amount of time to appeal the recommendation to the judge. If no appeal is made, the order will automatically become effective.